The Galactic Time Trap by John Stilwell

Carl Vandor is pilot who becomes lost in time only to make some major discoveries on his way back home.


  • Fun and engaging plot involving time travel
  • Some exciting moments
  • References to other time travel books that show influence


  • Conclusion is a bit shaky and feels a bit rushed considering pacing of story
  • Pacing of story a bit disjointed

The Galactic Time Trap Review

The Galactic Time Trap by John Stilwell is an exciting time travel adventure that recalls classics like H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Stilwell isn’t shy about revealing the influences in his book, so fans of similar adventure stories will immediately see the similarities between Carl’s situation and others.

As Stilwell mentions, stories involving time travel must inherently deal with paradoxes like the grandfather paradox. Some stories, like Doctor Who, avoid the whole situation altogether by saying that they must not encounter each other during their travels. While that’s one way to keep the timeline unspoiled, it’s sort of a cheap cop out, especially if later such a meeting takes place and nothing too drastic happens.

The Galactic Time Trap doesn’t shy away from paradoxes. In fact, the plot makes Carl’s encounter with his other selves part of the story and the mystery: who, or what, did those other Carls encounter, and how do those encounters fit into the otherwise fairly linear story?

The mystery of the protagonist’s encounters with his other selves, combined with the mysteries of the “Nessie” sightings, add to the intrigue of the story. These mysteries are later revealed at the end in a somewhat rushed way.

Joining Carl on his adventure through time is the artificial intelligence Ava commanding his ship. Not surprisingly to many science fiction fans, Ava begins to develop some kind of sentience and becomes a companion for Carl—it’d be a strange and lonely story with just one character besides.

What’s unique about this particular story is the method through which Carl traverses time. Most stories have some kind of time travel machine—Doctor Who uses a super advanced spaceship that’s disguised as a telephone booth. The movie The Time Machine uses a Victorian-inspired contraption of gears. Star Trek uses super advanced spaceships. But Stilwell opts for a pair of orbiting black holes.

This plot device makes for some interesting decisions like the need to map a path through the warping of spacetime and the need to enter these “time travel lanes” instead of relying on the ship. This device takes on an important role later in the story when Carl meets the villians.

The pacing of the story can feel a little bit disjointed, but that may be because of the nature of time travel. One day, one week, one year, one million years. In time travel stories, time doesn’t matter when the protagonist can traverse such large arcs of time. Toward the end, Carl makes a philosophical comment that in the larger picture, humanity’s struggles seem so small and petty, a comment that echoes Carl Sagan’s A Pale Blue Dot speech.

However disjointed the time jumps may feel like in the plot, the conclusion does feel a bit rushed. Carl’s entire purpose for his journey is to return home, yet this quest is seemingly abandoned, and the conclusion, while good, feels like a major detour from the story. The answers to the mystery and the question of the main conflict with humanity are almost sidelined in favor of what lies ahead for Carl, Ava, and the third passenger, who feels almost like an afterthought.

The Galactic Time Trap by John Stilwell is a fun and engaging time travel story that involves elements from some of the classics that readers will have fun recognizing throughout the story.

Read reviews of other books about time travel.